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Common recycling mistakes!

Earlier this year, Frederick County expanded their curbside recycling program and began to offer it to more residents. They delivered new wheeled recycling carts, began accepting more items, and eliminated the need for residents to sort their recyclables. According to a mailer I received from the Department of Solid Waste Management, the County provides more than 72,000 single-family homes with curbside recycling and more than 115,000 pounds of material get recycled each day.

The new recycling program is great! The more people participate, the better. Frederick County pays to transport 80% of its garbage to out of state landfills because ours is nearly full, so recycling is important for sustainability. However, this flyer states that more than 7% of what is being “recycled” is actually trash. According to the government, it costs them $40,000 a month to sort and dispose trash that is mixed in with recycables. The County has some common recycling mistakes listed on their website, some of which even I’m guilty of committing. Read on if you want to avoid some of these pitfalls!

Mistake #1 – Placing Recyclable Materials in Garbage Bags
Even though you no longer have to do it yourself, recycables still need to be sorted, so they should be placed loose inside your collection bin. Furthermore, certain plastic bags are not recyclable, including sandwich bags and trash bags. Shredded paper should be put in a paper bag and plastic shopping bags marked with a recycling symbol should be gathered into a single bag.

Mistake #2 – Leaving Styrofoam Packing Materials in Cardboard Boxes
Styrofoam is not accepted for recycling in Frederick County.

Mistake #3 – Recycling Microwaveable Plastics (GUILTY!)
Microwavable plastics are made to be highly heat resistant. Therefore, they are difficult to recombine with other plastics. The ones I’ve been “recycling” do have a symbol on them, but I guess Frederick County’s program simply can’t accept them.

Mistake #4 – Recycling Thin, Brittle, Clamshell Plastics (GUILTY!)
According to the government, these plastics don’t survive the mechanical collection and sorting processes. But they often have symbols, which is why I’ve been tossing them in!

Mistake #5 – Recycling Used Paper Plates, Pizza Boxes, Tissues, Waxed Paper, or Any Soiled Paper
Soiled? Ew… Paper is absorbent, so oils can bind to its fibers and cannot be separated.

The Department of Solid Waste Management says, “When in Doubt, Throw it Out!” For more information on Frederick County’s recycling program, visit This website also has important information on recycling fluorescent bulbs, electronics, textiles, and composting!

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  1. Posted December 30, 2009 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Many plastic bags are recyclable at locations that accept plastic grocery bags.

  2. Posted January 4, 2010 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing! That’s a great site.

    Frederick County residents can recycle plastic shopping bags in their regular curbside recycling bins. Just gather the bags and place in a single bag.

    Plastic Bag Drop-off Locations in MD, via

    More information on acceptable items for recycling in Frederick County:

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